Yesterday at the Cornell University Library’s Career Development Week, Chris Miller and I delivered an updated version of the Crash Course in Cloud Computing presentation that we gave at the Upstate New York Science Librarians Meeting last October. (Also updated were the supporting materials and my sardonic commentary.)
Beforehand, Chris and I were discussing how having more time for Q&A this go-round would probably lead to someone asking us if product X was an example of cloud computing, and the two of us disagreeing on the answer. Sure enough, it happened (ProQuest being the resource in question), and while we did not go ahead with our pre-arranged means of determining the correct response, it did lead to a pretty interesting discussion that I wanted to try to expand here.
So folks: is ProQuest an example of cloud computing? I said no, because its costs aren’t really dynamically scalable for the institutions who buy the licenses. Chris said it was, since it’s a resource that we could try to house on-site, but instead access remotely.
What do you think?
 Referred to hereafter as “CULCDW”. 
 In light of that acronym, I think I’ll just skip referring to it again. Great series of events, though.
It started with a presentation Chris Miller and I made at the Upstate New York Science Librarians Meeting on cloud computing, which ended up going rather well; you can check out the LibGuide Chris threw together as supporting materials here, if you’d like. (And my sardonic commentary on it here.) What’s really telling is that when I started writing this post I initially thought it had just been this past Monday, as opposed to two Mondays back. It’s really been that kind of Autumn, flying by like a reckless teenage driver and often feeling as dangerous. Or at least as heedless to its surroundings.
Seems like every day these last couple weeks has left my brain fried, unable to accept further input or produce further results; staggering home to dinner and maybe a touch of WoW seemed within my capabilities, but only barely. That being said, there’ll be something besides a level 76 rogue to show for my efforts before too long, some of which I’ll even be able to post about shortly. I’m shallow enough that the possibility of displaying the fruits of my labor makes the labor easier to endure.
And of course, this fortnight included Halloween, for which I finally provided some context to an oft-used icon by dressing up as Doc Gnosis: hero, pulp adventurer, and man of science.
This made me happy in a way which only confirms my earlier statement about shallowness. Sadly, my idea of using NaNoWriMo to write a longer tale involving the Good Doctor and the Raptormen of Venus has not materialized in any way. We’ll see if that changes, but considering how this week, fortnight, month, and season have been going, it does seem unlikely.
One of the most interesting sessions I attended at Computers in Libraries 2008 (and that’s a tough prize to take) was “What Do Users Really Do in Their Native Habitat?” Half of the presentation was by Pascal Lupien and Randy Oldham of the University of Guelph, and the other by John Law of ProQuest. Both halves described large-scale studies done to assess web resources’ usability for and impact on college students. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart, and I look forward to the full reports for use on projects like DigitalCommons@ILR and LibGuides.
As tempted as I am to summarize the results here, Jenica Rogers-Urbanek has already done a better job of it than I could. A lot of the data came as little surprise to the audience: the presenters from Guelph polled the audience about students’ use (academic and otherwise) of PDAs, chat applications, virtual worlds, etc., and the revealed stats matched the audience estimates quite well. But more surprising was that student respondents frequently noted that they wanted to use the library’s web sites because that was where the good information could be found, but were often rebuffed by usability issues. The students knew that Google and Wikipedia and so forth weren’t the best places to research, and they knew that the library had the information needed… but they found themselves frustrated by the interfaces standing between them and that information.
Law (who has, let us be frank, an awesome name) also found users who wanted the library’s information but found it difficult to get to. His study further indicated that many of these students were sold on using library sites by the outreach efforts of librarians. Once students became aware of a resource, either through their instructor or a visit from a librarian, they wanted to use it.
I found these presentations so useful that they went into the literature review for the Assessment Plan I handed in for LibGuides the day I got back from the conference. (An assignment written almost entirely in hotel rooms and airports, which was a first for me. Probably not a last, sadly.) This is great stuff, and honestly the kind of studies that need to be done if we really want to understand how all these electronic resources we buy and build and link to actually get used. Which is, I think, supposed to be the point.